Snow Birds

Last night we had a rare South Carolina snow. It was the buzz at work and I mentioned it to my wife when I got home. She said “Even the birds that don’t get along were feeding together so we’re going to get something”. It snowed a couple of inches overnight. School was canceled. The roads were wet and a bit slippery on the way to work. I left at the regular time and got to work 10 minutes earlier than usual because the traffic was light.


I keep finding that products that I have used for years because they do not have evil chemicals in them have been reformulated to include nasties like sorbitol (causes diarrhea) and aspartame (gives me headaches). Wrigley’s Doublemint gum is a prime example. It contains sugar so it does not qualify as sugarless AND aspartame.

No New News?

While reading the newspaper this morning, I had the thought that while reporters question everything that comes out of the president’s mouth (as they should), they seem to give a “pass” to all of the candidates. The reporters for both the newspapers and the networks do not seem to apply any sort of journalistic skepticism to any of the campaign talk. Perhaps we have a press corps full of repeaters rather than reporters.

Mackinac Straits Bridge – Part 2

Our family would occasionally take a boat trip to the bridge if the weather was calm. I can remember when the towers were being built. But more, I remember the next year when the catwalk was put in place. This was followed by the cable spinning operation. This is the most fun to watch. A device that looks like a collection of bicycle wheels is drawn from anchorage to anchorage by a winch. Each wheel pulls a loop of wire. Two wires per wheel. One wire is pulled off of a supply spool at the anchorage, the other is left standing still as the wheel goes by. Two wheels per trip. When the wheels get to the end, the loop tensioned, fastened to the anchorage, and another loop from that side is put on and the spinner is drawn back. That is about 5,500 round trips. I think that the spinner moved about 5 miles per hour. There was a bell that rang that warned the men on the catwalk that the spinner was coming. Quite an exciting thing to watch going on 200-400 feet overhead.

Part 1

St Ignace New Special Supplement

Sad Day

Driving to work this morning, I saw an orange tabby lying in the road. I drove to where I could turn around, came back, and moved the poor thing’s body to the grass at the side of the road. It had been a pretty cat with medium fur and a long haired tail. It made me sad.

Mackinac Straits Bridge

On November first it was the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of the Mackinac Straits Bridge. The Straits of Mackinac (pronounce Mac-in-awe) are between the Upper Peninsula and Lower Peninsula of Michigan. My grandparents had a summer home in the UP near the Straits. When I was young, my family would drive to the Straits and take the ferry across. I always remembered it as enjoyable although my mother said that the wait was sometime difficult with 5 children between 2 and 9.

The Mackinac Island Ferry operates out of the dock in Mackinaw City where the Straits ferries used to land. If you follow the link to the picture, you can see the size of the parking lot where the cars would wait to be loaded. For the most part, I think that they were roll-on-and-through. I know that that Vacationland was. If you were near the front of the line when the cars loaded, you would be the first ones off. I think as kids we wanted to be near the front so that we could see the hull lift up and the ramp go down. I know my parents would just as soon have been the last car on the previous load so that we would be on our way.

I do not remember distinctly the very first trip across the bridge the next summer. I think I was a bit disappointed that we did not get to ride the ferry. The bridge was exciting though. At mid-span, the bridge deck is about 200 feet off the water. The bridge is 4 lanes (and a bit more wide). The middle two lanes on the suspended part are open decking. This reduces the wind load and lets the snow fall through in the winter. As you a riding along in the travel lane, you can look left and right 200 feet down and see the waves. The bridge authority will provide a driver if this is too scary for you.

Each Labor Day, there is an opportunity for pedestrians to walk across the bridge. I should probably try it some day. On the other hand, walking from the southern approach to the southern tower of the Golden Gate Bridge provoked mild acrophobia. Maybe I will just think about it.

If you like bridges, this is the best. Goto his home page for a complete index.
Goto Part 2

Cat Flap

I finally got the cat flap into the garage fixed. About a year ago, there was some kind of commotion that resulted in the door on the cat flap breaking. I was able to repair it but a repeat this Spring resulted in permanent damage. So the cat flap has been open all summer. With Fall, there are other animals coming in and it needed to get fixed.

The part that broken was the clear plastic door. Our cats like a rigid door that they can see through. Some of them charge right through but others tap the door with paw or forehead and take a peek before diving in. Also Mr. Hillard is a substantial 19 pounds (8.6 kg), (but not fat!). I previously, I got a larger flexible flap for the window and they did not care for it.

The flap is in the aluminum garage door which is effectively zero thickness. When I did the original installation, it was straightforward sheet metal work that the US Navy trained me for at taxpayer expense.

To get it fixed, I had had some e-mail correspondence with the manufacturer of the old door, Stay-Well. They offered replacement parts for the model 715 but could not tell me where I could buy a complete replacement locally. While I was on vacation, I went to Tractor Supply (they have a lot of pet supplies) and Pet Smart but both were out of the small inexpensive door and and only had the deluxe models with locks and magnetic keys. Our cats do not wear collars and “lose” them if they get them for flea treatment and such. So no kind of key system is appropriate. Just a simple door please. Tractor Supply was out on both visits. Pet Smart was out on the first two visits but the helpful person in the aisle said come back Tuesday. Well I did not make it back Tuesday but I did make it back 2 weeks later on Friday when I had to go up to Pep Boys on Laurens Road. So I stopped by and there was almost what I needed. The Stay Well I had before and the Petsafe door I could buy now are different sizes.

There are some other differences. The Petsafe door has a label which describes the flap as being clear. But the label is over the flap and you do not really see that it is dark gray. It has mounting for a wooden door but not a sheet metal door. And the trim which goes on the other side from the mounting is to be applied with double-stick foam. It does not have relief or sockets for the sheet-metal screws the are supplied.

Fortunately, the new door was wider than the old door. More of those taxpayer funded skills with a tip of the hat to Mr. Hooper, my eighth grade metal shop teacher.

Raise the door and rest it on a saw horse. Using the template provided with the new door, I marked the new cut line with a permanent marking pen. Clamp a block behind the door with a spring clamp and center punch the corner hole locations 1/16″ in from the corner so that the cut lines are tangent to the hole. Repeat for the other corner (corners if this is a new install). Drill the holes with a 1/8″ drill. Cut with a metal shear along the line. Draw file the edge of the hole and burnish with a drill rod or scribe to remove the burrs. Hold the door over the hole and get it aligned. Mark the screw hold locations with a pencil. Again clamp the backing block, center punch the holes, drill them with a 1/8″ drill. I used 1/2″ long 8-32 screw, nuts along with a washer to mount the door. I put the hardware in from the outside because I did not expect the trim frame piece to stick to the textured and simulated raised panel door. It is stuck on the inside. With the hardware in the weather, it will eventually corrode. I finished this up about 14:00.

The garage door was up most of the afternoon while we were working outside. I put it down at about 17:00. About 17:30, Mr. Hillard came through so things are fine.

Saturday Bath

I was watering the grass in the front yard about 4 o’clock yesterday and noticed that the chickadees were in the maple. The maple is in the very middle of the front yard and as I was watering just one side, the spray from the oscillating sprinkler just reached the lower branches. The birds would wait for the spray to come and then hop down lower, get a bit of water and then jump back up. There were 6 to 12 birds in all. They all got a bath and then went elsewhere to preen. Even though it was cool, rain has been scarce so I suppose they taking the opportunity.

I have seen them do this before. I suspect that I do not always see them as each variety of bird gets in and gets out in a fairly short period of time.

Fall Cleanup

I spent the weekend with my wife cleaning up the gardens for the fall. She likes to cut back all of the perennials. She usually does this with a sharp kitchen knife. She did this year too. But when it cam to the liriope, I was able to help by running the lawnmower over it. I just set it up to the high setting (actually the setting I usually use for the grass), check for rocks and stuff in the garden and make a slow pass over the liriope.

She wanted to cut back a large rose-of-Sharon. My son fired up the chain saw and we cut away about two-thirds of that. It tripled the size of the burn pile.

Some of the late blooming and perpetually blooming flowers she saves. While there are not many bees still active, they find and utilize available blossoms. Pineapple sage, blue daze (evolvulus), Mexican heather.

Gone are the lantana, grape, wisteria, morning glory, cleome (beeweed), most of the petunias and numerous other varieties that I do not know the names.

The clean-up process is made more enjoyable by the mints in the gardens. There is fresh mint, spearmint, peppermint, and lemon balm. Also there is lots of rosemary. And of course there is cat mint (catnip).
When she cleaned up the catnip, all of the cats that were around got hunkered down in it.

Always enjoyable when outside are the songs of the birds, seen (chickadee, cardinal, and jay) and unseen (starling, woodpecker).

When you are turning over and cutting back you find lots of things that hide most of the time. A large leopard frog, a very large brown toad, and a centipede were seen. Also numerous squirrels, spiders, and insects.

The fire ants have not been killed yet in the front yard. With the rains, they must be being flooded out. I have put down Amdro 3 times but it has rained afterward and it does not seem to be effective yet. Usually, it works after just a couple of days. This is going on two weeks.

I took down the skyride as the traveller had become cracked. My wife will try to get a replacement. In the meantime, I took down the cable. I will turn it end-for-end in hopes of avoiding cracking the new traveller. It also will give the trees a break. When I had originally set up the cable, I had put it around two trees. To keep the cable out of the bark (and killing the tree), I put spacers under the cable in 3 spots. While they were growing into the bark a bit, they were relatively narrow and did not seem to cause any harm.

My son and I went to Lowes and got 24 bags of pine bark mini-nuggets noting that he had just vacuumed my station wagon yesterday.

Transporting all that was cut down to the back of the lot caused a lot of wear and tear on my tender new grass so at the end of the day, I ran the sprinkler on all of the warn portions in hopes of reviving it. It seems to look better.